You can hide your eating disorders from your family and friends but not from your dentist.

These disorders have a prominent effect on your mouth and oral health.

They can erode your enamel and weaken your teeth.

Hence, they not only affect your mental health, weight but also your dental health.

In fact, the change occurring in your mouth are the first signs indicating a disorder.

This article discusses the different kinds of eating disorders and what they can do to your mouth.

Keep reading to know how you can treat these oral health problems.

anorexic girl with eating disorders

What Are Eating Disorders?

There are three main disorders, bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa 

Bulimia stems from preventing yourself from gaining weight.

People who are conscious about their weight may get into this cycle of binging and purging.

They do not control the amount of food you eat, in fact, they will binge eat a lot.

These periods of binge eating can occur frequently in a day or week.

A person suffering from bulimia will eat noncontrolling and gulp down food fastly as if they have not eaten for a long time.

This food is usually high in calories, sugars and carbs, such as fast food and junk.

And of much larger quantity than a normal person would eat.

Hence, after their overeating, they feel the need to negate its effect.

They will try to undo it by immediately wanting to throw up by sticking their finger deep in their throat.

Or there are other ways like over-exercising and taking diuretics or laxatives to undo the effect of fatty and sugary overeating sessions.

In order to be considered a person suffering from bulimia, you would have repeated this cycle many times.

Carrying on the cycle of overeating and purging for a long time.

Constantly vomiting after every meal will affect your mouth.

Moreover, you will also feel tired, have constipation, feel abdominal pain, bloating and have irregular periods.

Though you may look at a normal weight, you may still be malnutrition.

Anorexia 

Anorexia nervosa also known as anorexia is a disorder in which the patient has a fear of gaining weight.

Hence, they limit eating by almost starving them.

The irony is that people suffering from anorexia are usually thin and underweight.

However, they consider that their weight is not ideal and try to maintain it or reduce it by completely cutting down food.

It gets more problematic when they punish themselves for eating the wrong kinds of food or eating more than usual.

Their self-worth is directly related to their calorie intake.

Therefore, they may try to reduce it by decreasing food, excessive exercising, taking enemas or laxatives and throwing up.

Anorexia and Bulimia are similar in the aspect that they both focus on reducing weight.

This desire may come because of social pressure or the fear of looking fat.

girl binge eating

Binge Eating

This disorder is equally present in women and men.

It is the compulsive eating of food.

However, in binge eating, the person suffering does not find the need to throw up, take laxatives, exercise or get rid of the food they ate in any way.

Conversely, they feel guilty and remorseful.

But still, continue to eat and in fact, these feelings help them to continue binging.

However, these are not food addicts or overeaters.

Binge eaters do not feel in control of their eating habits.

They will eat a large portion fastly till they are uncomfortably full.

Plus they will consume large amounts of food even when they are not hungry.

Fearing embarrassment and feeling guilty, they will eat alone.

They will also feel disgusted and shameful but cannot stop doing it themselves.

tooth decay in mouth oral health problem

How Eating Disorders Affect Oral Health?

Your body does not get enough nutrition in the case of anorexia and bulimia.

Hence, this can weaken your body overall and cause bleeding gums and tissues.

Furthermore, the salivary glands can swell resulting in less saliva production and causing dry mouth.

Lack of nutrition means that the mouth also does not the minerals and nutrients that maintain mouth health.

Calcium, vitamin B and iron promote dental health.

However, a lack of calcium can decalcify the enamel.

This results in tooth decay and cavity.

A lack of iron can cause mouth sores and lacking vitamin B3 can result in bad breath and sores.

Insufficient nutrition can cause gingivitis as the gums swell,  the lips can become dry and crack because of dehydration.

Regularly binging and purging can enlarge your salivary glands.

These are large enough to be visible to others besides being painful. This can cause embarrassment and distress.

The temporomandibular joint is correlated to degenerative arthritis and eating disorders.

If arthritis pains this joint it causes headaches, joint pain and difficulty while opening and chewing through the mouth.

woman with bulimia purging and vomiting

Plus, people suffering from bulimia and anorexia vomit frequently.

This results in stomach acid get up in the mouth.

This acid can easily erode the enamel and change the color, shape and length of teeth.

The teeth weaken and turn yellow exposing the dentin.

Their tooth sensitivity will increase hence, it will be harder to eat and drink cold and hot foods and drinks.

There can be tissue loss on the mouth and as well as surface erosions.

If the condition exceeds then it can expose the pulp and cause infection.

If you follow the vomiting by brushing then the abrasives in the toothpaste and acids in the mouth can erode the enamel and result in decay.

Moreover, a person who is suffering from these diseases tries purging.

Purging puts pressure of teeth on the mouth’s soft palate.

Hence, there is redness, cuts and scratches especially on the knuckles in the soft palate.

This is an indication for dentists that this person is suffering from an eating disorder as normally there can hardly be any damage to the soft palate.

Besides there can also be bruising or an injury to your mouth when the teeth exert pressure.

Furthermore, you may face jaw alignment issues, a chronic sore throat, teeth that look translucent, and palatal hemorrhages.

dentist examining patient

How Can A Dentist Help You?

Dentists can detect changes in your mouth due to all these disorders.

They can identify tooth decay, cavities and enamel erosion.

However, it is the injuries to the soft palate and the hard plus soft tissues that can help them identify if it is specifically because of purging or an eating disorder.

If they recognize it they can counsel you on it and recommend you to a mental health professional.

That said, they can also treat the problems you are facing with your oral health.

They will politely recommend you use fluoride toothpaste or varnish to prevent your teeth from decaying.

Furthermore, the dentist will guide you over brushing after vomiting.

Eating disorder patients are likely to continue purging even after they visit the dentist.

Hence, it is important that your dentist tells you to not brush your teeth immediately afterward.

The abrasives in the toothpaste and stomach acid can combine to damage and decay your teeth.

It is better to rinse only with water after vomiting.

Moreover, you should only brush about 30 minutes or an hour later preferably with a neutral or alkaline paste like a natural baking soda paste.

Your dentist can help guide you about dry mouth.

they can recommend you to chew sugar-free gums and drink lots of water.

This prevents other problems stemming from the dry mouth like bad breath and decay.

doctor ready to help with eating disorders

What More Help Do You Need?

Dentists can prescribe you fluoride rinses, other sugar-free mouthwashes, remineralizing agents and desensitizing agents.

They help to strengthen your enamel, protect it from erosion, getting decay, yellow teeth, as well as sensitivity in your teeth.

There is no shame in discussing your struggle with eating disorders with your dentist.

Since they cause oral health problems, you will have to visit a dentist.

Only they can guide you about the solutions to your oral health problems.

They will encourage you to brush and floss regularly.

However, this is not the only solution and you will need other treatments.

Moreover, it is a safe space to discuss your dental problems.

So do not hesitate in communicating the full situation so that your dentist can provide you with the appropriate treatment.

Therefore, keep visiting your dentist regularly to check the damage to your dental health and mouth.

However, the effects of eating disorders on oral health are still significantly lower than the entire body.

Moreover, they affect your mental health too.

Though, it is crucial to seek help.

This is only how you can overcome them else, you will become weaker every passing moment.

Hence, the first step is to recognize the problem.

Acknowledging it helps to get over denial and seek help.

Once you identify the need for help, you can prepare yourself to change.

Follow your therapist’s advice regularly.

Bring changes in your lifestyle.

Remember that your life is precious.

The damage to oral health is minor.

Whereas the one to your mind and body is major.

Hence, be open to treatment for your eating disorders.